One could ask the question – where have all the DAPs (Digital Audio Players) gone? And the answer could be that they simply have gone extinct. Companies like Sony and Apple, with a few others in tow are still bent on reviving the technology or attempting to at least keep it going for as long as possible. With the mobile phone taking precedence as the premier communication/media device, devices like the Walkman NWZ-B172 from Sony might not have a place in the tech world. However, for the avid music lover who’s into the gymming/jogging scene and looking for something small and inconspicious that doesn’t provide any distractions, a device like the B172 could be perfect. Read on to find out if Sony’s latest DAP makes the cut. 

Form Factor

It’s been a while since we’ve seen the USB plug-and-play style DAP make the rounds of the ‘tech-street’ and, it’s quite refreshing. Weighing in at a scant 28g the B172 still is a little bit on the bulky side, but not altogether difficult to manage at all. To make it easier, Sony has issued a clip that can be attached to the rear of the device which will make it easier to clip onto your apparel. An LED that is matched to the body of the player can be switched on and blinks in time to the music. 

Look Ma, no wires...

Look Ma, no wires…

It features a 3.5mm earphone socket at one end and comes bundled with earphones that are more than capable of handling high volumes without distortion or jarring of any kind. The B172 has a 1-inch LCD display (3 line) that’s easy to view and an extra large jog dial type control for switching or scanning through tracks and menus. A large Play/Pause button resides at the center of the dial. A home/return button and Hold switch are located at the bottom of the device, while a quick access Recorder button, volume rocker and a button to access Sony’s trademark ZAPPIN feature that doubles up as a Bass Boost key are located at the top. It’s a well-designed device that provides easy access to most features you’d require to use quickly. 

Simple clip for convenience

Simple clip for convenience

Features and Performance

The UI is quite standard and easy to navigate through. There are quite a few, very handy settings provided to help enhance your overall audio experience. 

To start off with, in the settings menu under Music Settings, you’ll have access to Play Modes that enable you to repeat either a single track or the entire list you’re listening to. There’s also an EQ mode that features quite a few presets as well as a customizable 5 band option for those who like to take matters into their own hands. Sony’s ZAPPIN feature, for those unaware, is a preview feature that, when activated, goes through your playlist, while playing a short (or long, can be adjusted via the Music Settings) clip of the track (from the middle). Think of it as a trailer of your music list, in a matter of speaking. To select a specific track just hit the ZAP button, while the preview is on and the track will start from the beginning. It’s handy for those who don’t wish to get distracted when busy. He/she can quickly scan through their lists and choose what they want to listen to. It’s quite handy. What’s a real pleasure is that the DAP takes no more than a couple of seconds at best to start up after being powered off. It goes straight to the last playing track, so you don’t miss a beat. 

A simple menu

A simple menu

Audio quality is, simply put, brilliant. It’s quite a step up from some of the previous editions of the Walkman DAP range. Aside from the fact that you could really damage your ear drums, if you even try pushing the decibel level higher than a couple of points over the 50 percent mark, tone quality is superb. The higher frequencies, should you find them a little too bright for your taste, can be subdued either via the EQ presets or by pressing and holding the ZAP button to boost the bass. This greatly increases the lower level frequencies and adds a whole new dimension of depth to the existing bass level. Those who enjoy a solid thump in the bass will find this option to be quite rewarding. Mid-range frequencies are well balanced, so vocals don’t come off too shrill. On the whole, audio quality is way above average with plenty of useful options to help make it better, if required.

Graphic EQ for a personal touch

Graphic EQ for a personal touch

It supports MP3 and WMA formats and files can be dragged and dropped onto the drive and stored in folders. You could also create a playlist in Windows Media Player and use that as a transfer tool as well.

The NWZ-B172 also comes with a built-in microphone for voice recordings. It doesn’t have the best range, but it’s clear enough to record voices within a radius of 4-5 feet.

Record from the radio

Record from the radio

FM radio is also part of the DAP’s feature set. It has Auto Scan and manual options for tracking channels. In Auto mode, the device tends to pick up and store quite a few random frequencies making preset selection a bit of a problem. As a suggestion, make sure you’re outdoors in an area where you usually get good reception and then use the Auto Tune mode for the best results. Nevertheless, reception was not an issue even in most indoor locations and while traveling. The B172 even allows you to record from the radio, if you wish. If the signals are clear, recordings will be the same. 

Battery Life

Sony claims that the Walkman NWZ-B172’s battery is capable of 18 hours audio playback. They weren’t off by too much. On an average, the B172 clocked in a total of 16 hours and 50 minutes (give or take a few minutes) of non-stop audio playback. Sony has also incorporated a Quick Charge feature that will give you up to 90 minutes (claimed) of playback after a 3 minute charge. In reality, it can go up to 70 minutes at best. 

Available in a range of colors

Available in a range of colors

The Bottom Line

The Sony Walkman NWZ-B172 comes with a price tag of Rs.2,990 for 2GB of storage. That seems just a tad too expensive. However all things considered and taking into account superb audio quality, 17 hours of battery life, a decent set of features and a Walkman branding that hasn’t lost its shine in decades now, it does seem to make it a worthy buy. Its biggest competitor would be Apple’s iPod shuffle that doesn’t come with an equivalent amount of features or a display and is also priced a little higher. So if you’re looking at a lightweight, feature-rich mp3 player with great audio, you’ve found it. 

The Walkman NWZ-B172 is available in four colours – Black, Red, Pink and Gold.

Publish date: May 18, 2012 4:29 pm| Modified date: December 18, 2013 10:18 pm

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